Latest bushfire victim was on the phone to his brother when flames engulfed his home

Brooke Rolfe
News Reporter

The death toll from NSW's unprecedented bushfire season has climbed to 25 after the body of a 59-year-old man was found in a home on the state's South Coast.

Michael Clarke was reportedly on the phone to his brother when fire closed in on his property in Bodalla, southwest of Moruya, on Thursday.

His neighbour told Nine News he was contacted by Mr Clarke’s brother Thursday afternoon after the line cut off during a conversation they were having.

Moments beforehand, Mr Clarke told his brother the shed on his property had gone up in flames, the neighbour told the network.

A man uses a water hose to battle a fire near Moruya, near where Michael Clarke was killed on Thursday. Source: AAP

The fire reportedly surrounded his property within just an hour, giving Mr Clarke limited opportunity to save himself.

The neighbour said his son thought Mr Clarke was “Australia epitomised”, describing him a “great guy”.

NSW Police said his remains were found on Friday after the bushfire raged through the area on Thursday.

“Officers located human remains in the home which had been completely destroyed by fire,” a police spokesperson said in a statement.

His death takes the NSW death toll to 25, with 33 people killed nationally from the bushfire crisis.

It comes 24 hours after three US firefighters died when their aerial water tanker crashed northeast of Cooma and on the same day father and son Robert and Patrick Salway, who died protecting their home in nearby Cobargo, were buried.

The 59-year-old was found by police at his home on the state's South Coast. Source: AAP

NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott on Friday said this season was the "darkest summer" in the state's history.

Mr Fitzsimmons said hot, dry and windy conditions on Thursday resulted in flare-ups, fire spreading and new fire ignitions, as well as home losses.

Six firefighters battling the Clyde Mountain blaze on NSW's South Coast were injured when their truck rolled near Moruya.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday announced a state memorial service would be held on February 23 in Sydney to recognise the firefighters who have died this bushfires season.

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